Alison Collins, the Vice President of the San Francisco Board of Education, has declared meritocracy to be racist even in the selection of students at advanced or gifted programs. As we have previously discussed, this has been a building campaign in academia as educators and others denounce selection based on academic performance through testing. At issue in San Francisco is Lowell High School where top students were selected through testing and grades. Most cities have such gifted programs or institutions, though we have discussed calls for the elimination of all gifted and talented programs in cities like New York. Lowell had a majority of white and Asian students and only two percent of its student body were African-Americans. Collins and other board members want to abolish the merit-based selection in favor of a blind lottery system.
Collins’ remarks from a San Francisco Board of Education public meeting in October 13, 2020 were only recently posted by Sophie Bearman of San Francisco’s online publication Here/Say Media. In the meeting, she declared “When we talk about merit, meritocracy and especially meritocracy based on standardized testing…those are racist systems.… You can’t talk about social justice, and then say you want to have a selective school that keeps certain kids out from the neighborhoods that you think are dangerous.”
Collins made the statement in support of a resolution, entitled “In Response to Ongoing, Pervasive Systemic Racism at Lowell High School,” authored by Collins, Board President Gabriela Lopez, Commissioner Matt Alexander, and Student Delegates Shavonne Hines-Foster and Kathya Correa Almanza.
Newsweek quotes at least one Lowell teacher who objects to the elimination of the school as a place for top performing students and said that the system is blind on race and designed to reward “the hardest working kids in terms of academics.”
Gifted programs and elite academic schools are designed to allow students to reach their full academic potential with other students performing at the highest level of math and other disciplines. It is often difficult for such students to reach that potential in conventional settings. Teachers have to keep their classes as a whole moving forward in subject areas. That often means that academically gifted children are held back by conventional curricula or lesson plans. Those students can actually underperform due to boredom or the lack of challenging material. Many simply leave the public school system. Moreover, students tend to perform better with students progressing at their similar level. Teachers can then focus on a lesson plan and discussions that are tailored to students at a similar performance level.
Related: English 10.
Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron provides a timely read.